Collaboration post! Sarca from Caught Me Gaming and Kevin from Buried On Mars take on Led Zeppelin! Each week, we will be reviewing a Led Zeppelin album on our respective blogs! So don’t forget to check out Kevin’s blog too!
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This week, we look at Led Zeppelin’s fifth album, Houses of the Holy (1973)
Christmas 1991. This is the time I transitioned from a red Sanyo double tape deck player to an Emerson CD-double tape deck-radio player, thanks to my aunt, and received some Led Zeppelin in the form of Houses of the Holy, thanks to my sister. The Houses CD was used, and before you go “ew how gauche”, this was 1991, my sis was a starving student and new CDs cost $18.99 a pop back then. I didn’t care where she got it from (Dr. Disc in London, Ontario, my FAVOURITE store when I went to visit), it was Led Zeppelin! She said, “oh yeah, picked this up for you…” and handed me the CD, sales sticker still on it ($10), as she hastily purchased it on her way to catch the Greyhound bus home for Christmas and had no time to wrap it…It was in mint condition. I still own that CD!
Actually, the better question is: who the heck would trade in such a fantastic album that is Houses of the Holy??
Houses of the Holy arrived right in the thick of my Led Zeppelin fandom. At this point, Led Zeppelin posters adorned my bedroom walls. I was buying up Led Zeppelin books and post cards, I was even asking for LZ sheet music. “Led Head” was a true moniker. I had heard all of the songs on Houses before; most of them exist on the Led Zeppelin Complete Box Set; Over the Hills and Far Away, Dancing Days, and the Ocean are missing. What songs to exclude! Over the Hills and Far Away fast became a favourite from the album. Dancing Days was played a lot on the radio. The Crunge, with its “Where’s that confounded bridge?!” became a favourite saying (as opposed to swearing, which was frowned upon in my house). The Houses of the Holy tee I had acquired, with its iconography of nude children gravitating towards what looks like a mountain-top altar caught my Mom’s ire as it appeared sacreligious. Other loved ones didn’t like the nudity. Yeah, that tee didn’t get much wear unless I wanted to be hassled.
This Led Zeppelin Complete Sheet Music Collection was given away during a massive purge in 2018
Then there was Led Zeppelin’s take on a ballad, the Rain Song, that re-ignited my interest in the piano. Having had studied classical piano more out of a sense duty than enjoyment, the quiet piano in this song made me want to learn how to play it. Thanks again to my sister, who bought me the Led Zeppelin Complete sheet music collection, I tried to take a crack at learning the piano version. Unfortunately, the sheet music to the Rain Song did not sound quite like how John Paul Jones plays the Rain Song...or maybe it was my playing. At any rate, it wasn’t enough to keep me playing piano; I haven’t played in almost 30 years. But, the song is still beautiful.
Upon relistening to the album for this post, comparing it to the previous albums, I can say Houses certainly delivers more rock and less folk or blues than their previous efforts. there is a brightness or clarity to the songs too – no bleak messaging about the environment, no going to Mordor. The arrangement within the songs seem to have a sophistication not previously seen. The songs’ pacing is just right. Jimmy Page as producer, allowed the music to speak for itself, adding effects only where necessary; No Quarter is a prime example of this. The Ocean, with its faded intro “We’re four already and now we’re steady…” start which rolls into the Jimmy guitar and Bonzo drums is a great rock tune that has always lifted my spirits. In fact, this is the one album that was just more upbeat accessible rock. If I had started my aunt on Houses of the Holy instead of Led Zeppelin IV, I might have won her over!
Houses of the Holy (1973)
Producer: Jimmy Page
Now go read Kevin’s take!